Risk Assessments Reflect on: my experience as an HSE Electrical Inspector. issues raised during recent Crown Court trial. How to comply.
My experience Assessing risk is not a new concept. Electrical engineers had a legal duty to produce ‘risk assessments’ since 1908 – Electrical Safety Rules. Prior to MHSW Regs, we had method statements, codes of practice, standing instructions, safety rules etc. All were ‘risk assessments’.
My experience Risk assessments are always examined during investigations. Remember: investigators apply 20/20 hindsight. Risk assessments are all too often: None-existent Drafted but not available Overly complicated Not known or understood by the workers, ie those at risk Not related to the specific job and/or site Not applied by workers and their supervisors
Crown Court Trial – Feb/March 2013 Lorry loader operator seriously hurt delivering cabin to site of music festival. To be security cabin located in field used as camp site for festival attendees.
Crown Court Trial Unloaded cabin underneath 11000 volt overhead line. Crane touched the line, he received serious shock and burn injuries. Line at height of about 7 metres.
Crown Court Trial Two risk assessment elements: The responsibility of the festival organisers/managers to manage the risk from the live line. The responsibility of the crane operator to manage the risk from the line while unloading the cabin.
Crown Court Trial Organisers had engaged event planners to identify risks, but with limited remit Hazard of live overhead line not identified
Crown Court Trial Judge said that it was common sense that the live line should not have been there. If this had been recognised by risk assessment, accident would have been prevented A simple risk assessment would have identified the risk to the festival goers and workers. What about the injured driver’s responsibilities?
Crown Court Trial Event organisers pled guilty to HSWA charge and fined £20K with £25k costs. Event planning company also charged under HSWA, pled not guilty, and were acquitted by the jury.
How to comply Legal duty to do them. Do they need to be written? HSE staff use dynamic risk assessments based on hazard-based instructions applied by competent persons. One means of complying but not always suitable, especially for high risk or unusual situations or where competence may be limited.
How to comply Keep them simple, understandable and available. Apply common sense and be proportionate. Make sure they address the task- and site- specific risks and identify suitable control measures. Make sure that the workers either see them or are instructed in their content.
How to comply Good advice, with some model assessments and references to guidance material, available at www.hse.gov.uk/risk/risk- assessment.htm